Denise realised her mum’s dementia was getting worse while she was living on her own in Bendigo. She would leave the house to go to the shops, she would eat and then sleep.
“That’s all she did. She didn’t do her washing or make her bed. And she was always getting lost.”
Denise initially helped her mum, Pat, make the made the move to residential aged care in Bendigo. However, after several issues with anxiety and falls, Denise brought her to Melbourne, to Corpus Christi Aged Care Residence, Clayton, where she could visit her more often.
While she was more settled, Pat was still having multiple falls and was often disoriented. She wasn’t sure where she was, and Denise says, with a laugh, her mum often thought she was out shopping.
“Mum loved to go op-shopping,” says Denise. “She didn’t know she was in aged care sometimes, she thought she was in a shopping centre.
“Her old routine would be that she would take her items to donate and pop them on the counter and then she would go and find things to buy. But now, she was going into people’s rooms and dumping her clothes on their bed and then taking their belongings to ‘buy’.
“I shouldn’t laugh, because she was going into residents’ bedrooms and bathrooms and upsetting them, but she just thought she was doing what she loved to do!”
Pat now lives in Cluny House, a specialist memory support unit for residents with dementia, located within Corpus Christi.
When Denise was approached about the possibility of Pat moving into Cluny House, she jumped at the chance.
It didn’t take too long for Pat to settle into Cluny House, and Denise says the small number of residents makes it quite comfortable and homely. The team often take Pat around Cluny House with a basket and help her to go ‘shopping’, choosing items from areas that have been filled with treasures for Pat to discover.
“It’s a lovely community and mum smiles. She is happy there. I think the dementia is getting worse, and her memory is going. But I think she has stopped trying to hang on to that. She isn’t fighting it as much and is calmer.
“I talk to the team, and learn from them how mum really is, and the main thing is that she is happy. She is accepting of the situation. If I take her out, she wants to go back there, which is a good sign. When I leave she is ok, and she understands. Now when I leave, I say I must go and cook dinner, or go to the shops; I have a reason to go.
“She is a mother, and she knows that I am going to do something for my family. So, she is happy, she thinks I’ve left her at home to do her own thing.
“I try to keep her new and her old life together, as much as I can and try to make them sort of appear the same. Am I successful? Who knows, you’re just playing the game. I have gotten used to mum not being the same. I can’t change it, now I am just observing what she does.
“There are days I get a bit upset, but usually I am accepting of what’s happened. I go along the ride, and just trying to enjoy what I’ve got with her.”